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The Rooney Story - Minnesota

Canada to Minnesota - 1865

The Rooneys tried for almost thirty years to earn a living by farming and working in the lumber industry in the harsh country of Canada. The land they lived on was of poor quality and it was difficult to make a good living from their farms. Because of the difficulties, many of them started to leave Canada about 1865 in search of a better life.

In 1871, the Canadian census shows only two Rooney families still living in the Wakefield area of Quebec; the Michael (Mickey) Rooney and the John Killroe families. Michael (Mickey) Rooney was the only child of Daddy Mick to remain in Canada, but some of Michael's children did settle in MN. The other eight children of Daddy Mick eventually settled in Stearns County, Minnesota.

Michael and Mary (Rooney) Colahan left Canada in 1854, much earlier than the others, and lived in Iowa and Missouri before relocating to Minnesota.

Thomas and Bridget (Brown) Rooney first went to New York before moving to Minnesota.

Patrick and Catherine (Rooney) Killeen also went to New York, returned to Canada, and then immigrated to Minnesota.

Minnesota - St. Anthony Falls

For a short time, between 1865 and 1870, some of the families, such as Rooney, Martin, Darcy, Killeen, and Tracy, lived in the village of St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota, located just north of the present downtown Minneapolis area.

Church records from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in St. Anthony Falls and other civil records show that these families had lived in St. Anthony Falls for a short time.

The following records show that some of the Rooney families lived in the village of St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota, between 1865 and 1870:

  1. Marriage record, William J Martin and Catherine Rooney, dau of John Rooney and Mary McCool, 7 Jul 1867, witnesses were John J. Darcy and Mary Tracy.

  2. Baptismal record, John Martin, 16 Apr 1868, born 15 Mar 1868, parents are William Joseph Martin & Catherine Rooney, Sponsors: John Michael Rooney and Bridget Eliz. Clara Tracey.

  3. Baptismal record, Michael Joseph Darcy, 14 July 1869, born 13 July 1869, parents are John James Darcy & Sarah Rooney, Sponsors: William J. Martin & Catherine Martin.

  4. Baptismal record, from St. Anthony Falls, of Mary Martin, 25 Dec 1869, born 24 Dec 1869, Parents: William Joseph Martin & Catherine Rooney, Sponsors: John Martin & Sarah Darcey.

  5. Street Directory of the City of Minneapolis, Aug 1, 1869 has these two listings:

    a) "Martin, William, laborer, bds 1st, bt Helen and Oregon, back".
    b) "Rooney, John, lab, 1st, bt Helen and Oregon, in back".

    (This could be John Rooney, brother of Catherine, boarding with William and Catherine Martin, on the 1st lot, in the back, between Helen and Oregon Street. Today, this location would be between 2nd Ave S and 3rd Ave S, on Washington Ave, across from the present-day U.S. Post Office).

  6. The 1870 Minnesota census of the 2nd Ward, St. Anthony, Hennepin County lists the following eight people living at one dwelling:

    William Martin, 32, works in saw mill
    Kate Martin, 24, keeps house
    John, 2
    Mary, 5 months
    John Martin, 25, works in saw mill
    Michael Rooney, 23, laborer
    James Rooney, 21, laborer
    Patrick Killian, 40, laborer

Martin Family

William and Catherine (Rooney) Martin moved in 1870 from St. Anthony to Detroit, Minnesota, which is now called Detroit Lakes, where they rented or secured a homestead farm. Later, they moved to Stearns County in 1873 where they eventually rented the farm of Michael J Rooney, a son of John Rooney and Mary McCool. In 1885, they purchased a farm in Pope County, Minnesota.

The parents and siblings of William Martin, who remained in Low, Quebec, Canada, kept in contact with William through a series of letters written about once a year between 1867 and 1910. Copies of the letters written from Canada to Minnesota exist, but the letters written from Minnesota were, apparently, destroyed. The letters give a glimpse of the difficult life of a Gatineau Valley pioneer family, their concern for their loved ones, and the curiosity and desire to know if life in Minnesota was better or worse than their own. Following is a letter from John Martin written to his son John, who was living in Stearns county, MN:

    Lowe, 13 Jan 1871
    My dear John,

    Your last letter duly arrived a week ago, the other letters you referred to I answered. I regret to hear that your health is not much improved. I wish to know whether you feel worse in the winter than in the summer, and whether you feel the cold in winter more severe there than in Canada.

    I infer from your last letter that the country around where John Rooney lives is all prairie without any timberland in sight. If so, how do they manage for fuel, and how are the men –such of them as are at home- occupied during the winter, what numbers of stock have they, how are they sheltered in the winter, and what size are the dwelling houses and of what materials?

    How far is it from John Rooney’s to Pat’s or his other friends, how much land has John under cultivation and what amount of crop of different description did he raise last harvest?

    I received a letter from William written when on his way to the pinery in which he says that he intends going on land next spring, either by buying land of his own or working a farm on shares. By his description of the terms of the latter sort of farming, I should think it would answer him better, as a man of small capital, purchasing land there for a living, would be a long time in embarassing circumstances; whereas, if he got a good farm on shares, on the conditions he described he ought to be able in a short time to have a handsome amount to spare besides supporting his family.

    We are all in the usual state of health, only that your mother and myself are –as might be expected– getting more feeble. Your mother, and the girls and James join with me in affectionate regards to you and Catherine and the children with sincere respects to her father and mother and the rest of the family and friends.

    Nothing worth recording has occurred here lately- except the burning of "Big Bill Hays’s" barn last October with all his crop in it- for which he has sworn information against "Blind" Dan Mahony and his sons -Pat and James- Their trial is to come on the 21st of this month, or the following week. I shall let you know the result after the assizes are over.

    I remain your affectionate father,
    John Martin

Minnesota - Stearns County - 1870 Census

The Minnesota census of 1870 shows six children of Daddy Mick living in Stearns County, MN:

  1. John Rooney & Mary McCool.
  2. Michael Tracy & Ann Rooney.
  3. Michael Colahan & Mary Rooney.
  4. Patrick Rooney (widower).
  5. Hugh Rooney & Ann Morris and Catherine (Mammy Kitty) Rooney, age 85.
  6. Patrick Killeen & Catherine Rooney.

Minnesota - Stearns County - Land Records

Most of the Rooneys who left Canada and came to the United States, took advantage of the Homestead Act and settled in Raymond Township in western Stearns County. This area, now known as Padua, was once known as "Rooney’s Settlement" or "Irish Landing" because of the many Rooney families living there.

The Original Land Tract Entries show 7 of the 9 children of Daddy Mick, had homesteaded land in the Padua area.

  1. Michael (M.W.) Rooney   (son of Thomas Rooney *, who was son of Daddy Mick)
  2. John Rooney   (son of Daddy Mick)
  3. Hugh Rooney   (son of Daddy Mick)
  4. Patrick Rooney Sr.   (son of Daddy Mick)
  5. Patrick Rooney Jr.   (son of Patrick Sr.)
  6. Michael Rooney   (son of Patrick Sr.)
  7. John J. Rooney   (son of Patrick Sr.)
  8. James Egan   (son-in-law of Patrick Sr.)
  9. Patrick Killeen   (son-in-law of Daddy Mick)   (husband of Catherine Rooney)
  10. Michael Colahan   (son-in-law of Daddy Mick)   (husband of Mary Rooney)
  11. Michael Tracy   (son-in-law of Daddy Mick   (husband of Ann Rooney)
  12. Joseph Tracy   (son of Michael Tracy)
  13. Michael J. Rooney   (son of John Rooney)
  14. Dennis Egan   (son-in-law of John Rooney)
  15. John Darcy   (son-in-law of John Rooney)

*An eighth child, Thomas Rooney, had settled on a parcel of land in the area but, having not built a home on the land, he spent that winter with his son Michael Ward Rooney. In the spring, his land had been claimed by a claim jumper and Thomas lost the land. He then continued to live with his son Michael Ward Rooney until Michael married Margaret Murphy. Thomas then went farming in Brooten, MN.

Rooney Land Patents

Minnesota - Stearns County - Padua Cemetery

Many of the Minnesota Rooney ancestors are buried in the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Cemetery in Padua, MN. In 1997, Ginny Walz Borgerding, a local resident and descendant of Michael Ward Rooney, wrote the booklet "Padua Cemetery", in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Padua Parish.

The booklet includes an alphabetical name directory, a cemetery map, a map directory, and a short biographical account of each person buried in the cemetery. This 59-page document is a good family history and genealogical reference source.

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